What Are They BDS-ing?

You don’t have to be Jewish, or a college student, to know that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is prevalent on American college campuses. Whether promulgated by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, Muslim Student Associations, or even the American Studies Association, the BDS movement has a stated goal, to force change in Israeli policies through economic action. To be sure, this type of action was justified, and effective in isolating an actual apartheid state, South Africa, but when it comes to Israel, the goals of the BDS movement belie something much more sinister. While it is known that the UN embarrassingly overlooks other countries actual abuses to focus on Israel’s imagined/falsified/exaggerated (take your pick) “abuses,” BDS takes this to a whole other level. While seemingly advocating for Palestinian rights, it is imperative that one breaks down the aims of the BDS movement, and compare it to the actual track record of their Israel-related complaints as they relate to other countries. It is only by comparing, side-by-side, BDS complaints about Israel with the records of countries many of these BDS’ers have welcomed, or ignore, and only then will BDS be exposed not as being a champion of Palestinian rights, not as standing up to the “Israeli Goliath,” but as anti-Israel at best, and sinisterly anti-semitic at worst.

On its face, BDS publicly claims they advocate for Palestinian human rights. In their jaded world, Palestinians have their basic human rights trampled on by Israel every day. Saying nothing of the fact that most Palestinians find themselves under Palestinian governance, especially in Gaza, which is a Palestinian state in all but name, singling out Israel for perceived human rights abuses while ignoring Iranian, Syrian, Saudi, Chinese, or Turkish human rights abuses is downright anti-semitic. Human Rights Watch, no special friend of Israel, has said Iran regularly executes drug dealers, detains journalists and bloggers, tramples on women’s rights, holds political prisoners, and regularly resorts to torture. Syria has devolved into a failed state where citizens are bombed, shot at, poisoned, and besieged in their own towns. Look at what has happened in Aleppo. The heart-wrenching “final messages” and apparent mass suicides to avoid rape at the hand of Assad’s soldiers is a crime against humanity to the utmost degree. Interestingly enough, Israel is on the front lines of the Syrian civil war, regularly treating wounded Syrians who make it to the border. Assad uses chemical weapons (flaunting Obama’s “red line”), while Russia and Iran have all but ensured Assad will be in power when the shooting ends. Turkey, never a utopian paradise, has worsened in the post-coup months. As Human Rights Watch noted, President Erdogan is detaining opposition politicians and journalists, shutting down TV stations, and passed emergency laws allowing for torture to be used. Now, compare this to Israel which banned torture, allows anti-Israel Arab political parties to run for Knesset, and lets all citizens freely protest government decisions.

Undoubtedly, maybe the most hypocritical aspect of the BDS movement’s relationship with human rights abusers is Iran. Many on the Left were the first to champion Iran being welcomed back into the “community of nations.” To quote President Obama, many wanted to believe Iran wanted, “to get right with the world.” To this end, many overlook the daily human rights abuses coming out of Iran, in a blind attempt to humanize that brutal theocracy. Of those who follow this absurd line of reasoning, they willfully turn a blind eye to an Iranian drug dealer being hung, a Baha’i shop owner being discriminated against, a woman being stoned or killed because she damaged her family’s honor, or other crimes, yet will be the first to label Israel an apartheid state because it dared to erect a checkpoint in an area known for having weapons smugglers or known terrorists.

Perhaps because it is a visible, tangible object, many who fly the BDS flag point to the security barrier Israel erected throughout Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as a “tool of oppression.” They must have short memories, or plainly ignore facts, to forget that this wall was built to stop suicide bombers and other terrorist infiltrations during the second intifada who killed 1,084 Israelis between September 29, 2000 and 2005. Those suicide and terror attacks dropped off sharply when the security barrier became functional. Now, how many countries throughout the world have border walls? Scores. How many countries face the same potential threats should the wall come down? Hardly any. How many countries with border walls are condemned as frequently as Israel? None. Saudi Arabia has a wall with Iraq, the U.S. has one with Mexico, India has one with Bangladesh, Spain has one around its enclaves on Moroccan territory. According to a British newspaper, the Daily Mail, 65 countries either have border walls/security fences, or are currently building them. These countries undoubtedly are not facing the same security threat Israel is, yet you will never hear a BDS movement aimed at tearing down Saudi Arabia’s wall. Following the 3 D’s of anti-semitism (Delegitimization, Double Standard, and Demonization), only condemning Israel’s security barrier would certainly tick off two of them.

So, it clearly can not be human rights nor the border wall that BDS wants to target, as dozens of countries have walls, and equally as many have a much lower standard of human rights. Perhaps it is the stifling of statehood. Perhaps many BDS’ers believe Israel is preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, therefore Israel can be boycotted. Now forgetting that Gaza is a Palestinian state in all but name and forgetting that multiple Israeli Prime Ministers have offered Palestinians a state, I do not recall seeing a BDS movement targeting China for their occupation of Tibet, nor a BDS movement aimed at Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Turkey for denying Kurdish statehood. Where is the movement to BDS Spain over its denying of statehood to the people of Catalan? The list of stateless nations with stronger claims to a state than Palestinian Arabs is as long as the countries which should be boycotted before Israel is even mentioned.

Open a map and close your eyes. Throw a dart. The number of countries you could hit who have a worse human rights record than Israel, have a border wall, and/or infringe upon the freedoms of some segment of its population are pretty high. The number of those countries who have the same security situation that Israel has, absolutely zero. So again, what is different about Israel that deems it “worthy” to be boycotted while dozens of other nations skate by with hardly a mention of their actual abuses? Well, thats easy. Is it perhaps that Israel’s Jewishness makes it open to be boycotted? Or, is it because of the oldest “affliction” still prevalent in today’s world: anti-semitism? It is no longer “polite” to target Jews, not since the Holocaust, but those with an anti-semitic itch to scratch can target the Jewish state, all while ignoring actual world issues, and that is a damn shame.

About the Author
Saul Mangel, a writer based in Netanya, specializes in international relations, the defense industry, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Originally from Philadelphia, Mr. Mangel holds a bachelor's degree in political science. While working at a leading intelligence firm in Israel, Mr. Mangel will continue to contribute to the Times of Israel.
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